The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

Northeastern graduate student union announces first bargaining committee

Elizabeth Scholl
Graduate student worker Niki Thomas leads a voting party on the day of the union election in late September. Thomas is one of the members of GENU-UAW’s recently-announced bargaining committee.

On Nov. 14, the Graduate Employees of Northeastern University, or GENU-UAW, announced the members of its first bargaining committee, the union’s first major step towards bargaining with the university since its certification in September. 

The election of a bargaining committee came almost two months after GENU-UAW officially became a certified union Sept. 21, with 94% of eligible voters electing to certify. This nine-member committee will represent the union, which is composed of approximately 1,200 graduate students, in contract negotiations with the university. 

The bargaining committee has nine positions encompassing six jurisdictions of various graduate departments at Northeastern. The bargaining committee members elected were Chloe Bennett, Xenia Dragon, JD Foster, Shahinaz Geneid, Kevin Jun Ha, Sydney Purdue, Tim Rupprecht, Sophia Sheng and Niki Thomas. 

Currently, no graduate student worker has access to dental care through the university-provided health insurance plan, Sheng, a second-year law student working as a research assistant, said in a press release on GENU-UAW’s website. At the law school, student workers’ pay is capped at $2,000 per semester due to restrictions that the university places upon federal work-study grants, according to Sheng. 

“I know from first-hand experience that what Northeastern offers us is well below what our colleagues receive at other academic institutions, and I am dedicated to ensuring that we get the improvements that we so desperately need,” Thomas, a sixth-year student pursuing a doctoral degree in bioengineering, said in the release.  

The union is advocating for a range of demands, including higher wages, improved medical coverage and better childcare support for graduate students who are parents. 

“Between the 60+ hour work weeks at exceedingly low wages, the lack of adequate health and dental care, the failures of proper protections for reporting advisor abuse or the lack of childcare for graduate worker parents, these forms of exploitation have irreparable consequences on the minds, bodies and spirits of the workers that keep this institution going,” Jun Ha, a sixth-year sociology doctoral student, said in the release.

The union is now in the process of deciding which issues to highlight in its bargaining talks with the university to determine specific language for their contracts, according to the press release. Once the bargaining committee and the university reach an agreement, the union will vote on whether to accept the contract. 

“I’m excited to help win our contract for us now, but I’m also thrilled to establish a strong foundation for incoming graduate workers who can join our community with more protections, more financial security and better benefits, and to set yet another precedent of the collective power of graduate workers with an excellent contract,” Purdue, a second-year doctoral student in the Interdisciplinary Design and Media program, said in the release.

The union faced pushback from the university in the years leading up to September’s vote, but the bargaining committee is now set to begin negotiations in the coming months.

“The only way forward is to organize ourselves and each other through the democratic and worker-led process that is collective bargaining,” Jun Ha said in the press release. “Having been actively silenced by my own department who purportedly maintain pro-union views, I am firm and unwavering in my commitment to the success of our union.”

About the Contributors
Elizabeth Scholl, Deputy Photo Editor
Elizabeth Scholl is a second-year pharmaceutical sciences major with a minor in business administration. She currently serves as one of the deputy photo editors for The News. Her favorite events to photograph include sports, concerts and anything The News needs last minute.
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